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Congregation to build $12.3 million church

April 14, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - St. James Catholic Church, which boasts Jefferson County's largest congregation, is planning a new $12.3 million facility that will make it the largest Catholic church in West Virginia, a church spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The new church is needed because of the significant growth in its membership, which now totals 3,200 people, said parish administrator Jackie Moler.

The plans also call for a possible new Catholic elementary school or high school on the church property.

St. James' church at 311 S. George St. seats only 276 people. Seven services have to be held to handle the weekend Masses, which usually attract more than 1,600 worshippers, said the Rev. Brian Owens, one of two pastors at the church.

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The church, built in 1889, was expanded in 1977 but enlarging it again would not be possible, Owens said.

"The only time we can get all our people together is at our annual picnic. We're busting at the seams trying to accommodate all the activity," Moler said.

The new church, which will be built on 22 acres the church purchased beside the Crosswinds subdivision along W.Va. 9 east in 1999, will have seating for 1,000 people, Owens said in a press release.

The facility will include a fellowship hall for 350 people, a commercial kitchen, classrooms, two office complexes with a library, other offices, meeting rooms and storage areas, Owens said.

The project will be divided into four phases, one of which calls for construction of either an elementary school or high school, Owens said.

The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston (W.Va.) will have to study what other Catholic schools are available in the area and determine whether an elementary or high school should be built, Moler said.

"Half our people are clamoring for an elementary school and half are clamoring for a high school," Moler said.

The remaining phases include a rectory and a "social concerns center," which will be used to store donations from parishioners for the needy, Owens said.

Moler said it is too early to determine how much the other three phases will cost.

The new church will be in Charles Town's city limits. To reach the facility, church members will use the main entrance to the Crosswinds subdivision. The church entrance will be to the left of the Crosswinds entrance, Moler said.

The project has been approved by Charles Town's planning commission and Bishop W. Schmitt of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, Moler said.

Construction could begin on the church within a few weeks. Completion will take about a year and three months, Moler said.

Church members have raised $2.6 million for the project. Moler said she is confident the remaining $9.7 million can be raised with the help of new members who are expected to join the church.

The parish will have to move to each succeeding phase of construction as the prior phase is paid off, Owens said in his press release.

St. James is the largest church in Jefferson County in terms of its membership, Moler said. When the project is complete, St. James will be the largest in size in the state as well, she said.

The second largest Catholic church in the state will be St. Leo Roman Catholic Church in Inwood, W.Va., which has seating for 850 people, Moler said.

Owens announced the final plans for the new church during overflowing masses held at the South George Street church on Easter.

"On this day when we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, it is great to know we will be able to continue his ministry in Jefferson County for years to come," Owens told parishioners.

St. James hopes to retain its current church to use for functions such as weddings, Moler said.

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